Resilience Spotlight: Celia Tomlinson, Entrepreneur, Engineer, Author,and Motivational Speaker

Posted on: February 15, 2013
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Watch Me Bounce Interview with Celia Tomlinson, Entrepreneur, Engineer, Author, and Motivational Speaker
WMB (Watch Me Bounce): Please tell us a little about what you do.
CT (Celia Tomlinson): In 2008, I retired as President & CEO of RHOMBUS P.A. Inc., a company that I founded in 1983. RHOMBUS, a full-service engineering and environmental firm, provided services in states including NM, AZ, NY, LA, AR, TX, WY, OR, WA. Since 2002, when my autobiographical book Don’t Ever Tell Me YOU CAN’T was published, I have been a professional motivational speaker. Perhaps to fully appreciate my situation, I must mention that I came to the United States alone in 1968, confident that my engineering background and $300 in my pocket were enough to pave the path to fortune. When obstinate men and harsh economic realities confronted me, I vowed to fight and stay the course. I had to overcome homelessness, poverty, gender discrimination, and racial discrimination. In 1977, I felt I finally gained recognition as an entity when I became New Mexico’s first female field engineer/inspector. In 1983, I founded RHOMBUS with $2000, rented surveying equipment, and a laborer plucked from the state unemployment line. The rest is history.
At present, I am having fun learning to adapt my book into a screenplay.
WMB: How does your work relate to helping people be resilient to adversity and/or trauma?
CT: Each time I speak, I hope I inspire the audience be resilient to adversity and/or trauma when I tell them how I overcame obstacles that were intentionally placed in front of me in the male-dominated profession and business. Resilience was what kept me together and led me to success.
WMB: Do you work with a specific population?
Young college-age and young career women seem to be the population interested in what I have to say.
WMB: What got you interested in resilience?
CT: I am interested in resilience because I lived it. I have it in me. I can share it with authority.
WMB: What does ‘resilience’ mean to you? What makes someone resilient?
CT: Resilience is the mental, emotional, and physical capability to recover QUICKLY from a setback. Something causes a person to become resilient, like situations where giving in or up is not an option. After a person has become resilient, bouncing from setbacks become easier and quicker. Resilience is the state of being desensitized to blows!
WMB: Why, in your opinion and experience, is resilience important?
CT: Resilience keeps a person whole. A resilient person is a brand-new person each time she bounces from a setback. She is ready again for a new challenge, ready to move forward, to persevere. Resilience and perseverance are like the chicken and the egg. Which came first? Resilience enables a person to persevere and perseverance develops resilience.
WMB: Do you think your personal experience gives you a unique perspective/angle on the topic? How?
CT: My whole life has been about resilience. Without resilience, I don’t have a story.

WMB: What do you love most about what you do?
CT: I love sharing with young people and older ones who are feeling down and out my experiences in which resilience is the common thread. If I motivate just one person to get his or her act together and move on, I consider myself successful.
WMB: What are your (other) passions?
CT: After pursuing a non-traditional career, entrepreneurship, and book publishing with a deep-purple passion over the years, I’m passioned out. I simply enjoy things now – family, friends, traveling, fine dining, speaking, etc.
WMB: Do you think resilience can be inspired?
CT: Absolutely. I believe resilience can be developed, therefore a person can be inspired to develop resilience. There’s truth to the saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you strong.” One advice I give in developing resilience is the “two-day trauma” tip that I learned from my struggles. When I had a setback, and believe me I experienced tons, I always limited my grumbling, moaning, groaning, and feeling sorry for myself to two days. On the third day, I asked myself, “What can be done about this situation?” If the answer was “none”, then I forced myself to move on. It’s doable.
WMB: Have you ever read a story(ies) that inspired you to fight against adversity? Can you recommend any stories, books or films that inspired you and may inspire others?
CT: I have read, and I love reading, lots of newspaper stories of people overcoming adversities. Resilience is a topic that never gets old. People who have read my book have told me it’s one of the most inspiring stories they’ve read.
WMB: Do you have any stories of your resilience you would like to share?
CT: I’d love to share the story of my resilience in getting my book published. After I had achieved breakthroughs as an engineer and an entrepreneur in the United States, I had this crying need to write a book about my success against all odds. I felt that people should know they can fight city hall, that career women can break the glass ceiling, that there’s hope for homeless people, that minorities can prevail, etc. And so I vowed to myself “I’ll write my book and get it published if it takes me 25 years.” Sure enough it took 25 years to get it published! The book is about me, therefore self-publishing was not an option. I needed validation.
Beginning in 1977, agents and publishers rejected my manuscript. Each rejection set me back but not for long. I soldiered on until I found an agent who wanted to represent me. When she failed to make something happen after a year, I retrieved my manuscript. One day I saw a call for book manuscripts in The Writer magazine about resilience and triumph of the human spirit. I submitted my manuscript. It was one of two selected for publication! After negotiations, a year went by. Then bad news came: the prospective publisher ran out of money! I returned to the query/rejection mode. Then came on-line publishing where there was more of the same queries and rejections. In 2002, Publishing accepted my manuscript for publication as an ebook. In 2005, De la Salle University Press published it the traditional way.
Is that resilience or what!

WMB: What do you think of Watch Me Bounce? What do you think of using story to inspire resilience? How can stories help survivors of adversity? How can they help the writers? And how can they help the people who read them?
CT: One morning while sipping my second cup of coffee, something possessed me to read or write about resilience. I googled “resilience” and Watch Me Bounce came up. That’s how I found the site. Using a true story is the best way to inspire resilience. Through the ages, true stories have demonstrated that the resilient human spirit always triumphs over adversity.

WMB: Thank you for your time, and for sharing your story.


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